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Art Notes: Main Street Stage Project Is Front and Center

  • Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet comprised of (left to right) Johnny Gandelsman, Eric Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords, and Colin Jacobsen plays to a packed house at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction on January 15, 2013. The group plays a genre-defying mix of music which often draws from international inspirations. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet comprised of (left to right) Johnny Gandelsman, Eric Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords, and Colin Jacobsen plays to a packed house at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction on January 15, 2013. The group plays a genre-defying mix of music which often draws from international inspirations.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pariah Beat drummer Jared Croteau, of Lebanon, performs on the Main Street Museum stage on March 26, 2011. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

    Pariah Beat drummer Jared Croteau, of Lebanon, performs on the Main Street Museum stage on March 26, 2011. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet comprised of (left to right) Johnny Gandelsman, Eric Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords, and Colin Jacobsen plays to a packed house at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction on January 15, 2013. The group plays a genre-defying mix of music which often draws from international inspirations. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Pariah Beat drummer Jared Croteau, of Lebanon, performs on the Main Street Museum stage on March 26, 2011. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

When the Main Street Museum moved into the former White River Junction firehouse it still occupies, founder David Fairbanks Ford built a small stage. The museum had hosted performances and lectures in its previous locations, in Hartford Village and in the former Lena’s Lunch in White River, but the new stage in the firehouse quickly turned into a magnet for a wide range of performers.

The museum eventually outgrew that stage, and it was replaced by a slightly larger one at the front of the museum. This stage has become even more heavily used, with acts as big as Brooklyn Rider, the acclaimed string quartet, performing at the museum.

Now, however, the stage is in need of an upgrade. The museum’s cadre of supporters started to renovate it earlier this year, but stopped when it became clear that serious electrical work was required.

On Sunday, the museum will host a brunch to kick off a fundraising drive to pay for the renovation, and perhaps more.

The museum needs to raise at least $7,000 to improve the stage. But if the campaign raises significantly more, the museum will carry out more extensive improvements, said Mark Merrill, acting president of the museum’s board.

“If we get $7,000, we’ll be successful,” Merrill said. But if the fundraising effort through the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter raises $14,000 to $20,000, “what we can do is give the stage a significant upgrade,” Merrill said.

That upgrade would include new seating, new LED lighting and a system that would enable live Internet streaming of the museum’s performances, as well as archiving events for the museum’s future use.

And on the off chance that the campaign goes viral and raises $50,000, the museum would start an artist-in-residence program in an open 700-square-foot studio on the ground floor of the firehouse.

Reaching the preliminary goal of $7,000 is paramount, since without it, the museum’s stage would close. At the moment, there is no other performance or lecture venue like it in the Upper Valley. The museum accommodates a very small audience, and as a result draws acts that fly below the radar of other venues. Hobo musicians, New Orleans buskers, obscure films and young Upper Valley bands have found a welcoming home on the museum’s stage.

“I think they play a really important role in our cultural ecosystem here,” said Margaret Lawrence, longtime programming director at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts. Ford is aiming to provide both an opportunity for artists and a gathering place for creative people, said Lawrence, who is an informal advisor to the museum.

The museum’s size is both a benefit and a challenge, she added. It’s the most intimate arts venue in the Upper Valley, but success can be difficult, since the work falls on few hands and even a well supported event brings in little revenue. Lawrence called the work Ford, Merrill and their small but merry band of conspirators “heroic” for their constant effort.

If the stage project goes forward, the number of performances will increase, Merrill said.

“We want more theater productions, not less,” Merrill said. Robert Baum, a new board member at the museum, is a theater producer who has expressed a desire to bring small, innovative theater to the new stage.

The performances are often impromptu. On Monday evening, an audience of around 35 people crammed into the Main Street Museum for a performance of The Collector, a piece of puppet theater by the Animal Cracker Conspiracy, a San Diego-based puppetry company. The performance, a mix of puppetry and video projection, was scrambled together over a couple of days.

“We had a great turnout,” Merrill said. “It was a perfect example of why we want to finish the stage.”

The aim of the project, said Merrill and Ford, is not to turn the museum into a performance venue, but to develop a resource that fulfills the museum’s mission as a gathering place for the open-minded. The museum is still primarily an exhibition space, Ford said. But his own come-as-you-are sensibility, founded on the notion that all aspects of material culture are worthy of scrutiny, brings in artists of every stripe.

“The diversity of what we do is really important,” Merrill said. If the fundraising campaign raises enough money, the stage will look like a Victorian jewel box theater, a small stage with red velvet curtains.

The Kickstarter campaign begins with Sunday’s 1 p.m. brunch at the museum, which is open to the public. Fundraising on Kickstarter means the museum needs to meet its goal to receive the money donors pledge. The museum was the first of the many cultural institutions that now call White River Junction home, blazing a trail for the likes of Northern Stage, the Center for Cartoon Studies, the Tip Top Media Arts Building, Scavenger Gallery and Revolution, the vintage and hand-crafted clothing store. Revolution’s annual Tip Top Couture fashion show on Oct. 5 will this year be a benefit for the Main Street Museum.

If you can’t make the brunch on Sunday, the Kickstarter page will be open for donors that day. It features a short film by Chico Eastridge that captures the museum’s spirit and explains the planned improvements.

For information, go to www.kickstarter.com. The Main Street Museum’s project goes live at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Of Note

Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art is hosting a pair of exhibitions that look squarely at Cubism. Foremost of the two is a show of Picasso’s “Vollard Suite,” a series of etchings made between 1930 and 1937, when Picasso was at his most fertile, along with prints by Rembrandt and Goya that inspired the Vollard prints. Accompanying the Picasso show is “Cubism and Its Legacy,” which features work by artists who developed cubism and others who followed their angled path. An opening party for the Vollard show is planned for Oct. 2. Also at the Hood; “Shadowplay: Transgressive Photography from the Hood Musem of Art,” an exhibition organized by Dartmouth studio art professors Virginia Beahan and Brian Miller, and “Evolving Perspectives: Highlights from the African Art Collection at the Hood Museum of Art.”

AVA Gallery and Art Center will host the first installment of The Mudroom, a social gathering for adults that’s based on public radio’s The Moth Radio Hour, on Sept. 19. The evening will feature five spoken-word stories on the subject of “Getting Schooled.” The deadline for submissions is Sept. 1, and should be sent to mudroom@avagallery.org. The Mudroom is the brainchild of several young members of the Upper Valley culturati. Check them out on Facebook. The September event is the first of a planned quarterly series.

Openings and Receptions

“Chisel, Brush and Pen,” an exhibition of work by Winkie Kelsey, opens Friday evening in the stone carving studio at AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon with a reception from 5 to 7. The show is a benefit for AVA.

∎ Tunbridge Library opens an exhibition of photographs by Tunbridge native Emily Ferro with a reception Friday evening, 7 to 9.

∎ Giovanna Lepore shows “New Small Works,” recent oil and watercolor paintings at Galleria Giovanna Fine Art in Canaan. An opening reception is planned for Saturday evening, 6 to 8. Through Oct. 31. Sales benefit the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The gallery is located at 313 River Road, Canaan. For more info visit giovannalepore.com.

∎ Windsor’s Cider Hill Gardens and Art Gallery hosts a mixed media exhibition featuring limited edition prints by Gary Milek, pottery by Susan Leader, Holly Walker and Stephen Procter, and sculpture by Patrick Johnson. The gallery is open Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the show is open through Sept. 15.

Last Chance

“Changing Gears: The Digital Evolution,” digital paintings by Hartland artist Gloria King Merritt, is on display in The Great Hall in Springfield, Vt., through Friday. Also in The Great Hall is a wonderfully potent exhibition of five paintings by Henry Swierczynski, a former engineer at Fellows Gear Shaper.

∎ “Objects and Power: Manifestations of Inequality,” a student-curated show that examines how objects relate to social inequality, is on view through Sunday at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art.

∎ Ledyard Gallery in Hanover’s Howe Library hosts “Brush Works,” paintings by Martha Davis and Katharine “Kappy” Fisher, through Wednesday.

∎ Norwich Public Library shows “Travels Around,” photographs by father and son Doug and Steven Lufkin, through Aug. 30.

Summer exhibitions at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center include fabric figures by Linda Rubenstein, photographs by Kelly Michaelsen, mixed media by Carolyn Enz Hack, oil paintings by Alison Vernon, collages by Barbara Newton and paintings and sculpture by Gowri Savoor. Guides to the exhibitions are available at the hospital’s information desks. The shows are on view through August.

Ongoing

AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon shows new work by 50 or so artists who have won awards in the annual juried show over the past 20 years. Through Aug. 30. Also, AVA has organized “A Celebration of Upper Valley Artists,” a group show at Pompanoosuc Mills in East Thetford, through Sept. 22.

Gifford Medical Center in Randolph shows watercolors by Greg Crawford of Stockbridge, Vt., through Sept. 25.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Col. Robert Gould Shaw with an exhibition dedicated to Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial. The original memorial is on Boston Common, but the historic site at Saint-Gaudens’ former home in Cornish has the only other bronze casting of the massive relief sculpture. An exhibition in the site’s Picture Gallery incorporates some of Saint-Gaudens’ preparatory work, as well as historical artifacts from the period the memorial represents. Admission to the park is $5 for visitors ages 16 and up.

∎ Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction shows recent paintings, sculpture and woodware by Ria Blaas, and jewelry and work in bronze by gallery owner Stacy Hopkins.

∎ The Woodstock Gallery hosts an exhibition of oil paintings by John Olson.

∎ BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., exhibits “Folk Vision: Folk Art from New England and Beyond,” on Wednesday.

The Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden hosts an installation by Randolph artist Mark Goodwin that pulls together work in a variety of media to create “a study in collecting, paying attention and relationships.” Also on view is “Interiority,” large works on canvas from 1979-1981 by Aidron Duckworth. An outdoor exhibition of sculpture by Fitzhugh Karol, an Orford native now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., remains on view into the fall.

ArtisTree Gallery in Woodstock hosts “Unbound III,” a juried exhibition that encourages artists to reconsider the idea of the book, through Sept. 7.

“A Garden Bestiary,” macro photographs by Peggy Richardson, is on view at the Hotel Coolidge’s Zollikofer Gallery. A reception is planned for Sept. 6.

∎ “Top of the World — Paintings and Artist’s Books of the Arctic,” work by Vermont artist Ken Leslie, is on view at Randolph’s Chandler Gallery. Leslie painted and made unique book structures while inside the Arctic Circle. Also on view will be paintings by Toronto-based paleoecologist and artist Bianca Perren and Inuit prints from the collection of Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum.

∎ “Watercolor Stories,” paintings by members of the local chapter of the Vermont Watercolor Society, is on view at West Lebanon’s Kilton Public Library.

Art Notes appears in the “Valley News” on Thursday. Send email to artnotes@vnews.com.

Related

Letter: Support the Main Street Museum

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

To the Editor: A big thanks to Alex Hanson for his excellent article on the Main Street Museum in White River Junction (“Taking Center Stage,” Aug. 22). The museum’s Kickstarter campaign, launched last weekend, became a Kickstarter staff pick and has already reached over 70 percent of its initial goal in just a few days. But there are other “reach” …